How not to be a tour guide

A cautionary tale

“You look like you went out last night” says Nicholas the walking tour guide the moment he looks at my face*.

Everyone else waiting for him in the hostel reception gets a simple “hello”, maybe a “how are you?” Mike gets a kind of weird ghetto handshake, but then he is special.

I already know by this point that Nicholas is a bit of a dickhead, but the evil morning greeting provides the nail in the coffin of his character.

For our little motley crew of fast friends, this is not our first rodeo, and so as we rise to the call of “vamos chicos”, we do so with grim anticipation, the bell of shame still ringing in our ears from the previous walking tour.

Why would we go in for seconds I hear you ask? Well. Today’s tour is to La Boca, a colourful, arty and generally dodgy district of Buenos Aires which is both a ‘must see’ and a ‘maybe don’t go there on your own though’ destination. hence, reluctantly today we have allowed Nicholas to be our chaperone.

We gather outside the hostel with our group of cannon fodder, and the shaming begins. “Quien habla Español?” asks Nicholas. Canadian mother says “un poco” and her 8 year old daughter raises her hand to indicate she speaks a little bit. I nod, our Italian genius friend nods. Everyone else avoids eye contact.

Nicholas turns to Canadian daughter and asks “donde naciste? She looks confused. He asks “de que pais eres? De que ciudad? More confusion. He asks these unnecessarily complex questions of everyone one by one in the group, leaving the actual Spanish speakers til last, clearly enjoying the total lack of understanding on everyone’s faces.

When you learn basic Spanish you learn “de donde eres?” = where are you from? This super fun game has the simultaneous effect of inflating his ego and crushing the spirits of those who thought they had some basic Spanish skills. Including the Canadian child who will now probably never be confident enough to try and practise her Spanish again. Oh Nicholas.

Knowing only each other’s countries of birth, and having all been brought down a peg or two, we head off on the bus to La Boca.

Now, a typical walking tour involves facts about the area, insider tips on places to eat, drink and visit, information about local customs and well, walking.

Nicholas has chosen to take a different path.

Nicholas’s walking tours involve very little walking, and very few facts. The information that is shared is seldom location specific.

“Let me ask you a question that none of you will know the answer to”.

Please don’t, I silently protest. This sounds like a shit game. Nicholas soldiers on.

“What is Argentina’s national sport?”

Everyone is forced to take a guess, and suggestions include football, rugby, polo, tennis. Nope. Apparently, Argentina’s national sport is called el pato. Which means duck. But no one actually plays it. That’s all. Brilliant- thanks for the facts Nicholas.

The tour continues much like this, spurious facts are imparted via cringeworthy games of Q&A which are designed to make Nicholas feel clever. And all the while we learn very little about La Boca. Cherisse throws us a few pity facts picked up from what sounds like an actual walking tour she took with Gastón from Beauty and the Beast earlier in the week.

The pièce de la résistance for Nicholas comes in the form of story time, and involves Italian genius. “Why do Argentinians love Maradonna more than Messi?” asks Nicholas to a glum, confused crowd. Italian genius saves us from the cringe fest and answers with, “because he stole the World Cup from another team?”. Nicholas punishes Italian genius for this ‘mic drop’ moment by asking him to tell the story to the rest of the group, but making sure to interject at every possible moment with “WAIT” followed by a minor alleged correction.

Amidst cries of “let him tell the story (from Ailidh and I), Italian genius does yet another burn by announcing “no no, he loves to correct people”. Mike tips Italian genius for his contribution.

So with precisely zero facts about La Boca, yet armed with the knowledge that Nicholas’s dad is from a small province of Italy named Alberobello, we find ourselves at the end of the tour.

Each with significantly less self esteem than when we started, but buoyed by the surprise emergence of a rival guide who is neither Argentinian nor a guide but yet has an impressive array of Argentina facts (Italian genius). We bid farewell to Nicholas with a horrendous tip and are unceremoniously abandoned in la boca. Perhaps as a result of the tip.

The moral of the story is two fold. One, don’t be a dick.

Two, if you are a dick, don’t be a tour guide.

*I didn’t 😐

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